Greenland Review

Greenland movie posterSynopsis
When comet fragments begin crashing down to Earth, John Garrity (Gerard Butler) sets off on a journey with his family from their home in Georgia to bunkers in Greenland before the biggest of the fragments strikes the planet.

Review
For as much of a catastrophe that 2020 was, it’s quite appropriate that one of the final films released this year is a disaster movie. You would be forgiven if you go into Greenland expecting a cheesy adventure often seen within the genre. And while this film does contain some of the tropes expected from this sort of film, it does manage to find an authenticity not often found in disaster movies. This all stems from Gerard Butler and his every-man portrayal of John Garrity, who is merely a structural engineer trying to protect his family. He is not indestructible, nor does he become this insanely good fighter like is often seen. Rather, he simply uses his wits to protect his family. Greenland is surprisingly down to Earth, focusing on the family dynamic between John, his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and their son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). While similar films have attempted this approach, Greenland manages to do it more successfully. Of course, it helps that Butler, Baccarin and Floyd all have great chemistry together. As the trio journey to from the southern United States to Greenland, they meet many different characters along the way. The movie uses this structure to display the different ways people would react and behave during such a calamity. It’s a powerful and effective way to examine human nature.

I thought Greenland was GOOD πŸ™‚ Choosing to focus on humanity and family rather than the impending disaster, it manages to strike a surprising emotional cord for this type of film. This smaller focus does prevent some of the genre’s more obnoxious flaws from surfacing, however it doesn’t avoid them completely. Nonetheless, Greenland is one of the better disaster films out there and feels like a fitting end to the disaster that is 2020.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ric Roman Waugh – Director
Chris Sparling – Writer
David Buckley – Composer

Gerard Butler – John Garrity
Morena Baccarin – Allison Garrity
Roger Dale Floyd – Nathan Garrity
Scott Glenn – Dale

Tenet Review

Tenet movie posterSynopsis
A CIA agent (John David Washington) is recruited into a secret organization known as β€œTenet,” who are trying to prevent a catastrophe worse than Armageddon.

Review
Over the years, Christopher Nolan has made a name for himself with his high-concept films, containing multiple levels, where nothing is exactly what it seems, and often require several rewatches to fully grasp the nuances and details of the story. With Tenet, Christopher Nolan might have made the most Christopher Nolan film to date. From the explosive opening scene to the mind-bending final scene, Tenet continuously leaves you feeling one step behind as you try to put the pieces together before realizing you aren’t even working on the same puzzle as Nolan is working with.

One thing I really appreciate in Nolan’s style of film making is his commitment to practical effects. Zero green screens were used during the production of this movie, which is an impressive feat given the idea that people and objects can move backwards in time or the scale of some of the action pieces. Nolan’s sincerity in wanting to keep everything in-camera creates a level of authenticity in Tenet that very few action films these days have. We’ve seen directors more and more in recent years move away from CGI back towards practical effects and I for one could not be happier. While there have been some really great worlds created with computer special effects, nothing beats feeling like what you’re watching on screen is real. Hopefully with this film, Nolan has inspired more directors to do more of the same.

In today’s world of remakes and reboots, Nolan has stood out as a director and writer who regularly brings original concepts to cinema. While Tenet does take inspiration from espionage thrillers of the past, and time travel movies have been done numerous times in Hollywood, there is still something that feels fresh and unique about the film. As I said, one of Nolan’s trademarks is a multi-layered story filled with details easily missed in the initial viewing and that is no less true in Tenet, which given the way the film uses time-travel, multiple watches are almost a necessity.

But with this film’s complexity comes a slow start. As exciting as the opening scene was, it took some time to get going. In order to properly get the idea of inversion across required a bit of exposition. Also, not much is given on what the organization of Tenet is or what exactly they are doing. As a result, a fair chunk of the beginning I felt lost as to what John David Washington’s character was doing and working towards. I don’t think the character knew exactly either and by keeping the audience in the dark as well, Nolan was trying to put us in the same boat as the character. While this can work, taking too long to get to the payoff can become frustrating and remove the audience member from the film. Once I really got into the idea of inversion and at least some idea of the plans of Washington’s character then I was able to settle into the film more. However, there was still a lot left unrevealed until the final act, and sometimes even the final minutes. The same can be said for the characters themselves, who receive very little in terms of development. Even though much is disclosed in the end, it does little to help their development.

Of course, what might have contributed to my confusion was the fact that it was very difficult to hear what the characters were saying half of the time. Another signature of a Nolan film is a boisterous score. And while such a score can work, the sound mixing in Tenet made it more of a burden than an enhancement. It’s hard to understand what is happening when you cannot hear the exposition.

I thought Tenet was GOOD πŸ™‚ In classic Christopher Nolan fashion, this film has an ambitious concept with a very intricate plot that will certainly require multiple viewings to fully catch all of the details. As a fan of great action sequences, this film is chock full of amazing set pieces all done using practical effects for an absolutely stunning experience. However, the beautiful wrapping covers up a lack of any character development and the score is the most in-your-face and obtrusive of any of Nolan’s films. Nonetheless, Tenet’s originality and creativity is refreshing in today’s landscape of remakes and reboots.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Christopher Nolan – Director / Writer
Ludwig GΓΆransson – Composer

John David Washington – The Protagonist
Robert Pattinson – Neil
Elizabeth Debicki – Kat
Kenneth Branagh – Andrei Sator
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Ives
Himesh Patel – Mahir
ClΓ©mence PoΓ©sy – Barbara
Michael Cain – Michael Crosby
Dimple Kapadia – Priya
Martin Donovan – Victor
Fiona Dourif – Wheeler

Artemis Fowl Review

Yesterday I announced the seventh annual Christmas in July Blogathon! If you are interested in participating or want to know more, check out this announcement post.


Artemis Fowl movie posterSynopsis
When his father is kidnapped for his knowledge of a powerful fairy artifact, Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) must use clues left in his father’s journal to find the artifact and rescue his father, Artemis Fowl, Sr. (Colin Farrell), from a mysterious figure.

Review
I’m aware that Artemis Fowl is adapted from a young adults novel series. I’m also aware of the troubled production history this film had from when its movie rights were sold until it was finally released. Then with the pandemic, this moved from a summer blockbuster slot to a Disney+ release. Between those issues and Disney’s difficulty adapting other popular young adult novels, such as A Wrinkle in Time, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that this film is ultimately a let down.

For starters, the story is extremely shallow. There is a MacGuffin that both the heroes and the villains are trying to find because reasons. It’s never explained clearly what it’s for or why it’s so powerful, just that it is because magic. The main villain, who is played by the uncredited Hong Chau, is never really seen or given much motivation or backstory. The team of heroes band together because it’s needed for the plot to move forward. Oh, and there’s a disgraced fairy officer that is given his job back because the bad guy wants him to become a mole and no one seems to question it. So yeah, there’s a lot going on.

It is said it is better to show and not tell in cinema. Apparently, the writer of Artemis Fowl never heard that saying before because this film is littered with exposition. Between narration, news reports, and characters relaying back story, a good number of classic exposition tropes can be found in this film. We are constantly told how smart Artemis is, we are constantly told Artemis has a strained relationship with his father, we are constantly told how good of a thief Mulch Diggums is, but very little of any of that is actually shown.

Because we are always told things rather than shown them, this movie moves both too quickly and too slowly at the same time. The story and characters are constantly rushing from scene to scene and things happen for no rhyme or reason other than because the story needs them to. The break-neck speed of the story never really lets the audience get a good handle of what’s going on because by the time you think about think you know what’s happening in the scene, it’s on to the next one. This film moves too quickly for its own good. Yet with all the exposition, scenes themselves drag on. It’s truly a weird dynamic.

The actions scenes were really the only part of the movie that kept my attention. However, they were marred by middling visuals. Some of the set pieces were exciting, like a troll rampaging through Fowl manor, and actually kept the film from becoming a snooze fest to me. But as flashy as these scenes were, things looked a bit too cartoonish, which in the end took me out of the experience just enough to not get the full enjoyment.

I thought Artemis Fowl was OK 😐 I can’t convince myself to say this is a bad film but it’s close. Even with a non-existent story, mediocre visuals, and pacing issues abound, I must admit that I had at least a little bit of fun. Not enough to revisit it again but enough to call it mediocre at best. Too bad though, given the popularity of the novels. Once again we’ll have to settle for a book-to-film adaptation that doesn’t live up to its source material. Not even Disney, it seems, can solve that mystery.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Kenneth Branagh – Director
Conor McPherson – Screenplay
Patrick Doyle – Composer

Ferdia Shaw – Artemis Fowl
Lara McDonnell – Holly Short
Josh Gad – Mulch Diggums
Nonso Anozie – Domovoi Butler
Tamara Smart – Juliet Butler
Colin Farrell – Artemis Fowl, Sr.
Judi Dench – Commander Root
Nikesh Patel – Chief Tech Officer Foaly
Joshua McGuire – Briar Cudgeon
Hong Chau – Opal Koboi

Inception Review

This review was originally posted as part of Table 9 Mutant‘s IMDb Top 250 project then updated and reposted for the Ultimate 2010s Blogathon, hosted by Tranquil Dreams and me.

Inception movie posterSynopsis
Dream extractors Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and their team are hired by Japanese businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) to perform inception, or plant an idea in someone’s mind, on Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), son of Saito’s dying competitor.

Review
Christopher Nolan is a writer and director who is known for films that are bold, that go big, and that are completely original. One of his boldest and biggest films came between the latter two films in his influential The Dark Knight trilogy. Inception has all of Nolan’s trademark elements and, most importantly, the cast to make it work. And it works. It works in a spectacular and unforgettable fashion.

Sometimes movies try to explain their world before getting into the story, often using an overbearing amount of exposition. But Inception doesn’t do that. Rather than use the beginning to set up the technology or concept to enter one’s subconscious, it is used to introduce the notion of dreams within dreams, which becomes an important aspect of the story later on, and also simply give an idea of what it the technology does. The movie accepts that entering dream space is already an established technology so it can start with a bang. However, later in the film we do get the exposition needed to explain such a high concept technology. This information is given to us through Ariadne (Ellen Page), who acts as the bridge between the movie and the audience. But again, it is done in a way that is neither pandering nor dull, somehow making exposition exciting and entertaining.

Although there is a large ensemble, almost everyone gets their fair share of screen time. Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are the main focus but they handle the attention well and give amazing performances. They play off each other humorously and you can feel that their characters are close friends. I haven’t seen many of Cillian Murphy’s films but I’m impressed with his performance here, playing well opposite, and later along side, DiCaprio. Ellen Page is the newcomer to the team and acts a great surrogate for the audience. She offers an innocence and a bit of naivete to the group. However, I would have to say my favorite performances is Tom Hardy as Eames. He brings a charisma that fits his character perfectly.

Cobb has become one of my favorite characters in cinema. He is very complex and it’s easy to forget that he is a thief. He is an antihero but is one because of the circumstances and wants nothing more than to return to his family. Most antiheroes say they have good intentions and only become so out of necessity but secretly enjoy being a thief/killer/whatever kind of antihero they are. Cobb, on the other hand, is truly not a bad person and is only leveraging his skills in a way he believes will allow him to return to his family the quickest, even though it is not a way he would prefer.

I have mentioned many times in other reviews how important the score can be to a movie. Like most other aspects of Inception, the sound work and music beautifully complements what is happening on screen. The movie can get loud to accentuate the action going on but it also gets very quite, making these moments more intimate. Hans Zimmer is my second favorite composer (behind the wonderful John Williams) and for a good example of why he is amazing just look at this movie. His score is memorable and gives a certain gravitas to the events unfolding on screen.

There are some amazing visuals, too. Working inside a dream allows the action to be limited only by the imagination. One of the coolest is an early scene when Ariadne is learning about molding dreams. She is walking around Paris and makes the city fold on itself, among bending the streets and architecture in other ways. There is also a fight scene in zero gravity in a hotel hallway. And these are just a few! On top of that, many of the effects are done practically rather than with computer animation. Even though this film takes place in the dreamscape, it adds a bit of realism in a world that is anything but real. The effects department truly outdid themselves.

I thought Inception was GREAT πŸ˜€ Like most of Christopher Nolan’s films, it features a grand and unique concept. Even though the concept is big, it is never dumbed-down or spoon-fed to the audience. The film assumes that they can figure things out for themselves and moves on accordingly, offering marvelous and extraordinary action pieces and character moments. Each character is complex yet relatable and all the actors and actresses play well off each other. Nolan has proven time and again his place as one of the biggest and best storytellers in Hollywood today, and Inception just might be his crown jewel. So far.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Christopher Nolan – Director / Writer
Hans Zimmer – Composer

Leonardo DiCaprio – Cobb
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Arthur
Ellen Page – Ariadne
Tom Hardy – Eames
Ken Watanabe – Saito
Dileep Rao – Yusuf
Cillian Murphy – Robert Fischer
Marion Cotillard – Mal
Tom Berenger – Browning
Pete Postlethwaite – Maurice Fischer
Michael Caine – Miles
Lukas Haas – Nash

Jumanji: The Next Level Review

Jumanji: The Next Level movie posterSynopsis
When Spencer (Alex Wolff) travels back into the game of Jumanji, Martha (Morgan Turner), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) go in to rescue him.

Review

In an age of reboots and sequels, Sony decided to create a sequel to the beloved Robin Williams film Jumanji 20 years later with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. That film ended up being a heap of fun and another sequel was inevitable. Enter Jumanji: The Next Level. Jumanji: The Next Level brings back much of what made Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle so enjoyable mixed with just enough of something new.

The combination of Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, and Kevin Heart acting as avatars to teens and behaving as said teens was without a doubt the best part from the previous film. They are back at it again only this time they are acting as avatars for different β€œplayers,” except for Gillen who continues to behave like Martha. Rather than playing an awkward teen, Dwayne Johnson gets to do his best Danny DeVito interpretation and absolutely nails it, somehow being even funnier than last time. Kevin Hart gets to pretend to be Danny Glover to hilarious effect. Jack Black deserves all the recognitions for his acting. Previously, he was acting like a teenage white girl, now he is acting like a teenage black dude, and once again creates the biggest laughs of the film.

Awkwafina joins the crew this time around. She doesn’t come in until partway through the film and disappears what feels like shortly after she arrives. Which is a shame because she integrates with the rest of the cast well. Through some shenanigans she also gets to do her best Danny DeVito impression. Alex (Nick Jonas), the fifth avatar from Welcome to the Jungle, also joins the fun for a little bit but he also isn’t on the screen much. It is clear that the movie’s focus is on the characters of Johnson, Gillan, Black, and Hart. Which on one hand is great because they have great chemistry together but on the other hand causes the other characters to be sidelined for chunks of time.

Jumanji: The Next Level keeps with the video game motif and gives the avatars new abilities and a new villain to defeat. Just like Van Pelt from the previous film, Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann) is pretty flat and only acts as the villain because the movie says it needs one, much like video games themselves. There are also new environments for the team to explore. The sense of adventure returns bigger than before.

The concept of lives this time around isn’t taken as seriously. In Welcome to the Jungle, the movie makes the characters limited amount of lives important and a big part of the story later on, creating stakes towards the end of the film when the characters are down to their last lives. However, that sense of value isn’t found in this sequel. Characters lose lives quickly and unnecessarily. Excluding a couple acknowledgements of their importance, the concept lives does not play much into the story, which removes those stakes mentioned in the last film.

I thought Jumanji: The Next Level was GOOD πŸ™‚ It brings back many of the elements that made Welcome to the Jungle so much fun but with a few twists. The new cast members are great but don’t have enough screen time to make much of an impression, at least not a lasting one. After two decently successful outings, I wonder how many good levels this franchise actually has left.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Jake Kasdan – Director / Writer
Jeff Pinkner – Writer
Scott Rosenberg – Writer
Henry Jackman – Composer

Dwayne Johnson – Dr. Smolder Bravestone
Karen Gillan – Ruby Roundhouse
Jack Black – Professor Sheldon β€œShelly” Oberon
Kevin Heart – Franklin β€œMouse” Finbar
Nick Jonas – Jefferson β€œSeaplane” McDonough
Awkwafina – Ming Fleetfoot
Alex Wolff – Spencer Gulpin
Morgan Turner – Martha Kaply
Ser’Darius Blain – Anthony β€œFridge” Johnson
Madison Iseman – Bethany Walker
Danny DeVito – Eddie Gilpin
Danny Glover – Milo Walker
Colin Hanks – Alex Vreeke
Rhys Darby – Nigel Billingsley
Rory McCann – Jurgen the Brutal

Promare Review

Promare movie posterSynopsis
30 years ago, people across the world began combusting. In the aftermath, those who could control the fires were called Burnish. In present day, Galo Thymos (Kenishi Matsuyama / Bill Kametz) the newest firefighter of Burning Rescue, works to stop the Burnish and protect the people of Promepolis from fires.

Review
Promare is the first animated feature from Studio Trigger, the Japanese animation studio whose animators and creators are behind such animes as Gurren Lagenn, Kill la Kill, and Little Witch Academia. While I haven’t seen most of their work, my friends I saw this movie with have and noted influences from and similarities to several of Studio Trigger’s previous works. For me, who is not as familiar, it was a new experience, but one I greatly enjoyed. As an animation fan, whenever I see a film that has a unique animation style, that’s a win in my book. The animation style of Promare is unlike anything I have seen before. It is vibrant, which in and of itself is not unique, but the way it uses the colors to accentuate the action is. It appears flat but is dynamic at the same time, particularly the way it portrays fire, smoke, and water. Lately it has felt like each new animated film I’ve seen has found its own design, allowing it to stand apart from other animated films.

This anime is very much an action film and it was edited like one. Tight camera angles and quick cut-aways, some of my action movie pet peeves, make the action difficult to follow at times, which was irritating because the action is extremely over-the-top but so exciting and it would have better to have seen it in all its glory. Knowing the history of the type of material this studio puts out, it’s no surprise that the best way to describe the action of this movie is β€œballs to the wall.” The first scene is a giant action set piece, then it slows down slightly for some exposition (not a lot of exposition but just enough to give you a hint of world building), followed by what feels like an hour long fight scene. Seriously, once it hits about the halfway mark, it never lets up.

I thought Promare was GOOD πŸ™‚ Once it puts its foot on the gas, it never takes it off. At times it can feel like a bit much but the ridiculousness of it all makes it humorous and entertaining. Studio Trigger has show that they can successfully translate what makes their different anime series popular onto the big screen.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Hiroyuki Imaishi – Director
Kazuki Nakashima – Writer
Hiroyuki Sawano – Composer

Kenishi Matsuyama / Bill Kametz – Galo Thymos (voice)
Taichi Saotome / Johnny Yong Bosch – Lio Fotia (voice)
Masato Sakai / Crispin Freeman – Kray Foresight (voice)
Ayane Sakura / Alyson Leigh Rosenfield – Aina Ardebit (voice)
Hiroyuki Yoshino / Billy Bob Thompson – Remi Puguna (voice)
Tetsu Inada / John Eric Bently – Varys Truss (voice)
Mayumi Shintani / Kari Wahigren – Lucia Fex (voice)
Rikiya Koyama / Steve Blum – Ignis Ex (voice)
Kendo Kobayashi / Michael Sinternikiaas – Vinny (voice)
Ami Koshimizu / Erica Lindbeck – Heris Ardebit (voice)
Taiten Kusunoki / Neil Kaplan – Vulcan Haestus
Nobuyuki Hiyama / Mathew Mercer – Gueira (voice)
Katsuyuki Konishi / Yuri Lowenthal – Meis (voice)
Arata Furuta / Mike Pollock – Deus Prometh (voice)
Ryoka Yuzuki / Melissa Fahn – Biar Colossus (voice)